Skip to main content

Healthcare Execs Lobby for Federal Patient Identification Standards

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   March 21, 2024

The Match IT Act of 2024, now before Congress, would create a federal definition for 'patient match rate' that providers would address as they would a clinical quality measurement

A new bill before Congress aims to jump-start the unique patient identifier conversation by creating a healthcare industry standard definition for “patient match rate” and improving provider efforts to match patients with their health records.

The Patient Matching and Transparency in Certified Health IT (Match IT) Act of 2024, introduced in February by US Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Bill Foster (D-IL), would, if passed into law, set the bar for providers in matching patients to their records. It would establish the patient match rate as a clinical quality measurement, creating standards by which providers identify patients with their services and information.

The legislation addresses a key pain point in the interoperability arena, where supporters have long argued for the establishment of a unique patient identifier (UPI), or individual code similar to a social security number that would be used by providers to identify and match patient data. While that debate has bogged down (with some critics blaming the heated political environment), this bill would move away from that issue and give health systems something to work with.

“We have this major issue in the industry that’s costing lives, costing money, costing time [and] causing a lot of frustration,” says Aaron Miri, MBA, FCHIME, CHCIO, senior vice president and chief information and digital health officer at Baptist Health Jacksonville. “This gives us [an opportunity] to create a measurement of success, a benchmark.”

Clay Ritchey, CEO of digital identity management company Verato, said the bill comes as the industry is making a “mad dash” toward digital transformation and interoperability. Healthcare executives are struggling, he says, to manage and use vast amounts of data, including unstructured data coming in from outside the EHR, and trying to avoid data silos as they move toward value-based care.

“We often don’t know who’s who across each of these touch points,” he says. “That’s why we need meaningful standards in place.”

In a press release introducing the bill, Kelly said 35% percent of all denied claims result from inaccurate patient identification, costing the average hospital $2.5 million and the industry more than $6.7 billion annually. In addition, the cost of repeated or unnecessary care due to inaccurate medical data costs $1,950 per patient inpatient stay and more than $1,700 per ED visit.

And that’s not counting the patients who suffer harm from an unnecessary medial procedure (such as surgery on the wrong site or incorrectly prescribed medications).

"This legislation would promote interoperability of patient matching systems, which would protect patients and decrease burdens on healthcare providers,” added Foster.

The bill has drawn support from a number of healthcare organizations, including HIMSS, CHIME, and AHIMA, all part of the Patient ID NOW coalition. Another member of that coalition is Intermountain Health, whose chief digital and information officer, Craig Richardville, MBA, CHCIO, also backs the bill.

“[T]his legislation will address our nation’s current inability to consistently and accurately identify patients to their health records. Improved standardization of patient demographic data will lead to more accurate patient matching, which in turn will produce advances in patient safety, more complete information for clinical care, and cost savings from reducing the need for repeated medical care, among other benefits,” Richardville said in a Patient ID NOW press release on the legislation.

Aside from reducing patient harm and unnecessary medical expenses, Miri said the bill would gives hospital and health system executives an important tool in managing patient data—including that of their own doctors and nurses. And with Baptist Health Jacksonville managing some 35 million unique patients now and seeing roughly 100 people a day moving into northern Florida, the health system needs to keep track of who it’s treating and hire more clinicians to handle the growth.

It would also fit well with the industry’s emphasis on patient-centered care and patient engagement initiatives.

 “We have a consumer demand that’s insatiable for their own data,” he points out.

So while the UPI argument seems stalled, advocates for the Match IT Act of 2024 are hoping that bipartisan support will propel the bill at a time when Congress is struggling to agree on anything.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Difficulties in matching patients to their medical records cost healthcare providers millions of dollars each year, causing unnecessary procedures, patient harm, and some deaths.

Federal regulators and the healthcare industry have long argued over creating a unique patient identifier that would give each patient a code, like a social security number, to match that person to their medical records.

A new bill before Congress would bypass that argument and create a national standard for patient matching, giving providers a bar to meet in matching patients to their records.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.